Siraj Abishov, a camera operator with the Azerbaijani state broadcaster AzTV, and Maharram Ibrahimov, a correspondent for the Azerbaijani state news agency AzerTag, were on assignment in Azerbaijan’s Kalbajar district, near Nagorno-Karabakh, on June 4, 2021, when the vehicle they were riding in hit a landmine, killing both journalists at the scene, according to multiple news reports and a tweet by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov.
The explosion, which occurred at about 11 a.m., also killed an Azerbaijani government official and wounded several other passengers including AzTV producer Emil Mammedov, according to those reports.
According to Rasul Jafarov, chairman of the Baku Human Rights Club, a local advocacy group, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, Mammadov was injured in his head and lost feeling in the left side of his body immediately after the explosion. He was treated at a local hospital overnight and then released, and his injuries were not severe, according to Jafarov and news reports.
Abishov was born on August 29, 1989, in the Azerbaijan city of Gubadly, and had worked at AzTV since 2019, according to reports.
Azerbaijan’s military has accused Armenian soldiers of planting landmines in areas previously controlled by Armenian forces, according to news reports, which described the Armenia-Azerbaijan border area as “one of the most heavily mined regions in the former Soviet Union.”
Bayramov, the Azerbaijani foreign minister, and local advocacy groups have called on Armenian authorities to release maps of landmines in the area to allow journalists and other civilians to work safely, according to news reports and statements by those groups.
“These people went to that region for journalistic reasons, they were there doing their jobs, covering topics that are of huge public interest today. Their deaths inevitably raise a question of landmine maps: as long as they are not revealed, the work of any journalists, no matter what country they are from, who would go to that area would be endangered,” Jafarov told CPJ.
The Azerbaijani military prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the journalists’ deaths, according to news reports.
СPJ emailed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Azerbaijani military prosecutor’s office for comment, but did not receive any responses.